"Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake up and become aware. It does not teach, it points." ~D.T. Suzuki

Monday, March 26, 2012

What Theories Need

“The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that
the path to genuine religiosity
does not lie through the fear of life,
and the fear of death, and blind faith,
but through striving after rational knowledge.”
Albert Einstein 
The Case for an Authoritative,
 Not Authoritarian,
Policy in Science, Business and Life 

“My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.”
“I do not believe that a man should be restrained in his daily actions by being afraid of punishment after death or that he should do things only because in this way he will be rewarded after he dies. This does not make sense. The proper guidance during the life of a man should be the weight that he puts upon ethics and the amount of consideration that he has for others.” 
Albert Einstein
Fear leads to protection. To protect is to isolate and from isolation, no good can come.Old buddhist saying
If corporations are people, 
maybe so are theories on how to live.
They need a voice, speak up.

Great theories do not need authority,

but they do need to be authoritative.

They also need to be original.

And perhaps a bit disruptive.

Defining and Revising
the Structure of Evolutionary Theory

Theories Need Both
Essences and Histories

In a famous passage added to later editions of the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin (1872, p. 134) generalized his opening statement on the apparent absurdity of evolving a complex eye through a long series of gradual steps by reminding his readers that they should always treat "obvious" truths with skepticism. In so doing, Darwin also challenged the celebrated definition of science as "organized common sense," as championed by his dear friend Thomas Henry Huxley. Darwin wrote:
"When it was first said that the sun stood still and world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei [the voice of the people is the voice of God], as every  philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science."

Despite his firm residence within England's higher social classes, Darwin took a fully egalitarian approach towards sources of expertise, knowing full well that the most dependable data on behavior and breeding of domesticated and cultivated organisms would be obtained from active farmers and husbandmen, not from lords of their manors or authors of theoretical treatises. As Ghiselin (1969) so cogently stated, Darwin maintained an uncompromisingly "aristocratic" set of values towards judgment of his work—that is, he cared not a whit for the outpourings of vox populi, but fretted endlessly and fearfully about the opinions of a very few key people blessed with the rare mix of intelligence, zeal, and attentive practice that we call expertise (a democratic human property, respecting only the requisite mental skills and emotional toughness, and bearing no intrinsic correlation to class, profession or any other fortuity of social circumstance).

The Structure of Evolutionary Theory
by Stephen Jay Gould

Democracy means each citizen has a voice because each person is their own authority.
Democratic thought and way of life

"Democracy is an egalitarian form of government in which all the citizens of a nation together determine public policy, the laws and the actions of their state, requiring that all citizens (meeting certain qualifications) have an equal opportunity to express their opinion." (Wikipedia)

I freely disclose my biases. I consider these two Evolutionary scientists, Charles Darwin and Stephen Gould (the first and third most cited names in evolutionary biology, C.G. Simpson is second), to have been the strong silent type of Leader. I also detect they had at least some of the characteristics of distruptive innovators.

I recognize Gould's punctuated-equilibrium particularly in it. Disruptive and sustaining adaptations. I see evolutionary theory having a place in the economic and public sphere as well. And so, I am developing my own consulting business with evolutionary science. This, with the purpose of bringing scientific disruptive and sustaining innovations to the world of education, medicine and business for the good of all.

When I was in my graduate studies, I was doing mating and reproductive experiments looking at a possible new species of Diaptomus leptopus. Yes, my first love is hominid evolution, but no one was going to give me a grant to experiment with a population of people for god knows how many generations (Haldane's dilemma notwithstanding). However, I also eventually did graduate work with Dr. Ken Jacobs in Paleo-Anthropology at another university and was on excavation teams at some of the most amazing hominid sites in Southern France, working with Dr. Serge Lebel and the legendary Dr. Henry de Lumley. Alas, more on that will have to wait for a future blog post.

Diaptomus leptopus copepod 
My thesis committee was to be composed of 3 professors (2 will remain nameless for discretion). The first was fortunately and naturally my supervisor and mentor Dr. Ed Maly. A wise Evolutionary Ecologist and in my eyes definitely a great scientist and human being (props to my man Ed). I chose as my second member Dr. "Smith" also a great microbiologist and human being... (had novelty at the time... a PCR machine in her lab) and who was helping me with DNA-sequencing and fingerprinting. BTW, some people think that electro-phoresis is a technique, but I have witnessed botched technique in some hands whereas in other hands, wow it's an art, baby. But I digress...)

And finally, as my 3rd member, I chose Dr."Jones". Who excelled at numbers but had a completely different personality and even theoretical approach from mine (she was a Neo-Darwinist or Modern Synthesis person and very pro-Dawkins. She was tyrannically rigorous with stats. My first encounter with her was as an ungraduate, again in Ed's lab, watching a thesis presentation of one of Ed's grad students. Once the floor was open for questions she ripped into this girl's numbers, almost bringing her to tears before her profs and peers. I knew then I wanted her on my future committee. My hunch was right, (it turns out as I endured her courses over my undergrad years, and her grilling during graduate committee sessions) she would end up liking me. Apparently a drop of diplomacy and a dab of emotion intelligence go a long way. And I know she always had my best interests at heart.

So here's my point. As a scientist or a business person or anyone. Trust your own mind and heart, but surround yourself with competent people who although are not always on your side in opinion, are nonetheless ultimately are on your side in common purpose, Excellence and Quality.
“If you can't explain it simply,
you don't understand it well enough”

A mind educated with open but rigorous science 
can make for better life decisions 
and so a better world.

Think for yourself.

A majority of one.
That's where it starts.

Be daring. Inspire new adaptations.

Innovate and be an example to others.

Work shouldn't only seem like play.

If you're doing it right, it should be play.

“The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life. To make this a living force and bring it to clear consciousness is perhaps the foremost task of education. The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy of the authority imperil the foundation of sound judgment and action.”

Albert Einstein, 
letter to a minister November 20, 1950; 
from Albert Einstein the Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 95.
Use your best judgement. Encounter and engage yourself with good-hearted people and great minds.

(when) aged 46 in 1855, by then working towards publication of his theory of natural selection. He wrote to Hooker about this portrait, "if I really have as bad an expression, as my photograph gives me, how I can have one single friend is surprising." (Wikipedia)

In my personal and professional adventures, I have had the good fortune of meeting many truely great people. Some famous, some not so famous. Here's one of my favorite scientists and human beings.

A definite scientific and real life hero to me.

was a man I had the honor to briefly know. I am proud to say I have talked with him, shaken his hand. He gave me more than the ambition to great science, he flattered me greatly once by calling me a colleague.(I may not be worthy, but he made me feel like it.)

He is a man I will remember not only for his brilliant mind but his generous heart. I am humbled and grateful that he shared his Wonderful Life with me, even for a short time in life's long history.
With Stephen Jay Gould...
Every moment was great.
(Yes, there will be a special post on Dr. Gould's birthday, in September or if I can't wait, in May as a memorial. I might even recount the funny but touching story of how we met.  He is missed. )

There are no real authorities
in Science, Business, or Life
better than your own good judgement.

As a scientist, politician, business person or layman... Surround yourself with quality people, this includes the articles, books and media by the people who created them. Keep those that are the best, close. However, beware of the vox populi, for as the Buddha said, in the end you should only trust your own best judgement. Step back from the crowd and into the crowd to find out what that is.

But, don't turn away so easily from opposing views. If your idea has mettle (courage and fortitude) and metal (formative stuff) it will stand the tempering. You will be up to it if you have the passion of your conviction.

Science is a self-correcting process on many levels. (It can apply to business and to personal growth as well). Once really good ideas are hatched what they need is exposure to fresh air and other people. Exposure first perhaps to a close circle of expertise, the best people from a variety of perspectives. And eventually to an open science at all levels of society and an awareness in the public that it's there. Open, accessible information that is for all walks of life, those who wish to live by the wisdom of the best science available. From the CEOs, MBAs, MDs and PhDs to the BMWs (that's Bus, Metro, Walk... Metro is the name for the subway here)

I believe that this may allow for better policy, synergy, collaboration, idea eggs for further research, critiques, improvements, tweaks, revisions, evolutions and revolutions for the good of all.

In the development of design, the input of expertise is invaluable. Wherever it comes from, it must be credible and sincere.The building of great ideas is the building of quality relationships. This ultimately comes down to relationships with quality people.
True in Science. True in Business. True in Life.

Equilibrium evolution produces sustaining innovations. Punctuated evolution... disruptive innovations. I am basing my MU consulting on some of these evolutionary principles. It should be interesting.

I think the incorporation of evolutionary science into corporate motives, decisions and actions can be of powerful benefit. It will be central to my MU consulting services  for education, medicine and business.

Your support and encouragement are welcome.
So are your expert and professional critiques
This is the MU Website - petershimon.com
you can follow at mu_peter for Twitter updates

Enjoy.© 2012 MU - Peter Shimon


  1. That's a really nice post, very well done. Cleaver and funny.

    1. Merci Caroline,

      Coming from another great evolutionary biologist like yourself,
      I am very honored and encouraged. :)


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